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In my previous post I suggested that SAP archiving is underutilized and deserves more attention. Here I want to build on this by first looking at an example of a typical user organization that is continuing to retain data from closed business transactions within the live database.

A typical user scenario

The graphic below shows the increase in data over a period of time based on the following typical figures:

  • Annual data growth of 80 gigabytes (GB)
  • Residence time of six months - after this time, data is no longer required online and could potentially be archived
  • Data is backed up 200 times annually (i.e. once every working day)

Data Growth With and Without Archiving

The blue area shows the volume of data that is actually required by operational transactions, while the black area shows the data that is no longer regularly accessed piling up as time goes by. The volume of data required for regular daily business clearly remains constant at approximately 50 GB.  

The build-up of historical data places increased pressure on the database and application servers, with the result that transactions and especially reports have to make selections from larger volumes of data in the application tables. As a result, transactions and reports take longer to run.

SAP recommends removing the older data (the black area) using SAP archiving as the best way to address this issue but we at Macro 4 are sometimes asked whether there any other options, such as deleting data.

Are there any alternatives to archiving?

There are certainly some types of system data that can be deleted rather than archived, such as temporary message logs, spool files and workflows from the BASIS module, but the majority of transactional data will need to be retained for operational reasons or to meet legal data retention requirements. For example customer invoices need to be kept for a minimum of seven years in the UK and pension data must be retained throughout the life of the employee.

Increasing system resources by investing in more disk space or greater processing capacity may be the first port of call for organizations experiencing performance problems. However this provides only temporary respite - if at all. As data continues to grow it will only be a matter of time before problems appear again. Investing in disk space is also an expensive option and won't always improve performance - as explained in point two in this article that discusses common (but often misguided) objections to archiving.

So SAP archiving is the only feasible long term option to limit data growth. To underline this I have listed below some of the key benefits to user organisations:

Maintaining good end user response times

Processing time is proportional to the volume of data that the system has to search. So by limiting the size of the database, you help maintain effective end user response times. And you avoid the inconvenience of having to run certain queries as background jobs, which can be the case if large data volumes are involved. 

Helping ensure data clarity

With more data in the system, end users will be offered more data - because the volume of data selected increases. This can have a negative effect on the clarity of the available data. For example, former customers that your company no longer does business with may be listed on a customer report. This can mean that additional manual effort is required to help limit and filter the data in the selection screen (e.g. you might have to export the data to a spreadsheet or reporting package and manually delete ex-customers).

So by keeping the database size in check, archiving can reduce the work that end users need to do to get to the right data.

Reducing the administrative workload on the IT department

The IT department is responsible for system availability and performance, so restricting the volume of data using archiving can help control and manage IT's workload in the following areas: 

  • Hardware administration
  • Software upgrades
  • Database reorganisation
  • Data backup
  • Recovery

Maintaining high availability

Where large volumes of data are involved, system availability can be impacted because data backup, recovery, upgrades and administration all take longer (requiring more downtime). So minimizing the size of the database by archiving can help maintain high availability. This in turn increases productivity and helps to safeguard service levels by ensuring that customer transactions can be processed without delay.